This Old Thing: Movie Increases Game Table Value


Q My cousin recently purchased this inlaid wood chess table online from a lady in Switzerland for the equivalent of $520. The lady originally bought it in France but knew nothing of its origin. It measures 60 centimeters in diameter (23.5 inches). There are four identical marks on the top and we don’t know if these are just ornaments or writing. Any information would be greatly appreciated. Thank you and best regards from my Swiss cousin and myself.

A. Chess is very popular right now thanks to the movie “The Queen’s Gambit” and game boards have been popular for quite some time. Your table dates from the 20th century, but it is difficult to determine a more precise date. The contrasting marquetry (inlay) is impressive. The strings of the “checkerboard” inlay are reminiscent of Persian techniques, and I have an uneducated feeling that it might be Persian writing in the four dark wood highlighted lozenges. The different exotic woods used are impressive. Its perfect condition bears witness to its age and will contribute to its marketability. It’s definitely a unique conversation piece. It won’t be a surprise to see this table tagged at $1,250.

Q I’ve had this little bottle for decades and have forgotten how I acquired it. I thought it was a perfume bottle until I recently watched a video showing it to be a Chinese snuff bottle painted on the inside. The artistic process is fascinating. The bottle is 7.5 cm high (3 inches). The cork broke, leaving the spoon inside the neck of the bottle. I’m curious about the age and value and if it can sit in the window with my other perfume bottles.

A. Your snuff box painted on the inside, with its flattened ovoid sides, was painted by a Chinese artist. This form is part of the highly refined tradition of Chinese snuff, unchanged for over 350 years. The bottles were carried in the wide wrists of the wearer’s costume. These have been a favorite to collect in numbers because they don’t take up much space, but at the same time they provide an enormous amount of art. To paint the interior, brushes with only one or two bristles were used. This bottle has a common scene that was supplied in large numbers to the western world from the 1920s. The tops are often a stone of some kind and you should be able to get it repaired. I haven’t heard of the sun fading them. Earlier collection eras found these to fetch higher prices than today’s markets. It’s a nice sample worth $65 today.

Q This wagon, which my parents bought when I was little, has been with me for at least 70 years. He saw a lot of playtime with me giving my sister rides. Sold by Simpson’s, this “Hill ‘n’ Dale” was a heavy wagon constructed of wood and heavy steel, unlike the plastic ones of today. It is 101.5 cm long (40 inches). He is in surprisingly good condition for his age.

A. Dating from the late 1940s or early 1950s, your heirloom probably cost around eight dollars at the time. Robert Simpson opened his first store in 1858 in Newmarket, Ontario. The company became serious competition for Eaton’s of Canada. Toys still fascinate adults and your wagon is also a promotional item, a collectible category that is very strong today. The whitewall tires will catch the eye, and the sloping bottom is unusual. It will bring out the inner child for auction buyers with a ride worth $125.

John Sewell is an appraiser of antiques and works of art. To submit an article to his column, go to the ‘Contact John’ page at Please measure your part, say when and how you got it, what you paid for, and list all identifying marks. A high resolution jpeg photo must also be included. (Only email submissions are accepted.) *Assessment values ​​are estimates only.*


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